Thornham Parva

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Thornham Parva
Thornham Parva - Church of St Mary.jpg
St Mary's Church, Thornham Parva
Suffolk UK location map.svg
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Thornham Parva
Location within Suffolk
Population50  [1]
Shire county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Eye
Postcode district IP23
Police Suffolk
Fire Suffolk
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
List of places
52°18′47″N1°05′28″E / 52.313°N 1.091°E / 52.313; 1.091 Coordinates: 52°18′47″N1°05′28″E / 52.313°N 1.091°E / 52.313; 1.091

Thornham Parva is a village and civil parish in the Mid Suffolk district of Suffolk in eastern England. Located to the north of sister village Thornham Magna and around five miles south of Diss, in 2005 its population was 50. [1] By the time of the 2011 Census populations of less than 100 were not maintained separately and this village was included in the population of Thornham Magna.

Civil parish Territorial designation and lowest tier of local government in England

In England, a civil parish is a type of administrative parish used for local government, they are a territorial designation which is the lowest tier of local government below districts and counties, or their combined form, the unitary authority. Civil parishes can trace their origin to the ancient system of ecclesiastical parishes which historically played a role in both civil and ecclesiastical administration; civil and religious parishes were formally split into two types in the 19th century and are now entirely separate. The unit was devised and rolled out across England in the 1860s.

Mid Suffolk Non-metropolitan district in England

Mid Suffolk is a local government district in Suffolk, England. Its council was based in Needham Market until late 2017, and are currently sharing offices with the Suffolk County Council at their headquarters in Ipswich. The largest town of Mid Suffolk is Stowmarket. The population of the District taken at the 2011 Census was 96,731.

Suffolk County of England

Suffolk is an East Anglian county of historic origin in England. It has borders with Norfolk to the north, Cambridgeshire to the west and Essex to the south. The North Sea lies to the east. The county town is Ipswich; other important towns include Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds, Newmarket, and Felixstowe, one of the largest container ports in Europe.


St Mary's Church

The small, thatched St Mary's Church is a Grade I listed building. [2] It has early 14th century wall paintings, on the south wall, the early years of Christ and on the north wall, the martyrdom of St Edmund. There is a circular window in the west wall of the nave that is said to be late Anglo-Saxon as well as the famous retable. Architect Basil Spence died in 1976 at his home at Yaxley, Suffolk and was buried at Thornham Parva. [3]

Retable appendages placed on the mensa of an altar in a Christian church

A retable is a structure or element placed either on or immediately behind and above the altar or communion table of a church. At the minimum it may be a simple shelf for candles behind an altar, but it can also be a large and elaborate structure. A retable which incorporates sculptures or painting is often referred to as an altarpiece.

Basil Spence Scottish architect

Sir Basil Urwin Spence, OM, OBE, RA was a Scottish architect, most notably associated with Coventry Cathedral in England and the Beehive in New Zealand, but also responsible for numerous other buildings in the Modernist/Brutalist style.

Yaxley, Suffolk human settlement in United Kingdom

Yaxley is a small village just west of Eye in Suffolk, England. The name means 'cuckoo-clearing'.

Thornham Parva Retable

The Thornham Parva Retable Retable St.Marys Thornham Parva - - 542418.jpg
The Thornham Parva Retable

The Thornham Parva Retable is a 15 feet (4.6 m) long medieval altarpiece, thought to have been created in the 1330s for a Dominican Priory. [4] It is the largest surviving altarpiece from the English Middle Ages. It survived the reformers of the 16th Century, who raged against idolatry and destroyed most of England's medieval culture, by being removed from the priory. It was discovered in 1927 in a loft at Thornham Hall. The local landowner, Lord Henniker donated it to the church of Thornham Parva where his brother was parson.

Altarpiece Artwork (painting, sculpture or relief) behind the altar

An altarpiece is an artwork such as a painting, sculpture or relief representing a religious subject made for placing behind the altar of a Christian church. Though most commonly used for a single work of art such as a painting or sculpture, or a set of them, the word can also be used of the whole ensemble behind an altar, otherwise known as a reredos, including what is often an elaborate frame for the central image or images. Altarpieces were one of the most important products of Christian art especially from the late Middle Ages to the era of the Counter-Reformation.

The origins of the retable were a puzzle but the picture itself provided vital clues. The figures pinpointed links with the Dominican Order. At either end are St Dominic and St Peter Martyr, joint patrons of the Dominicans. St Catherine and St Margaret of Antioch were the order's mascots. The Apostles Peter and Paul, who were believed to have spoken to St Dominic, all point towards Dominican interest. The presence of St Edmund suggests an East Anglian link. John the Baptist's figure might seem more obscure, but the benefactors of the Dominican Priory at Thetford, John de Warenne, 7th Earl of Surrey and Edmund Gonville would have expected their namesakes to be part of the finished painting.

Dominican Order Roman Catholic religious order

The Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominican Order, is a mendicant Catholic religious order founded by the Spanish priest Dominic of Caleruega in France, approved by Pope Innocent III via the Papal bull Religiosam vitam on 22 December 1216. Members of the order, who are referred to as Dominicans, generally carry the letters OP after their names, standing for Ordinis Praedicatorum, meaning of the Order of Preachers. Membership in the order includes friars, nuns, active sisters, and affiliated lay or secular Dominicans.

Blackfriars, Thetford was a friary in Norfolk, England, which belonged to the Dominican Order. It was one of several religious houses in Thetford closed at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The site is now occupied by Thetford Grammar School.

Thetford town in Norfolk, England

Thetford is a market town and civil parish in the Breckland district of Norfolk, England. It is on the A11 road between Norwich and London, just south of Thetford Forest. After World War II Thetford became an ‘overspill town’ taking people from London, as a result of which its population increased substantially. The civil parish, covering an area of 29.55 km2 (11.41 sq mi), has a population of 24,340.

The retable returned to Thornham Parva church in 2003, following eight years of restoration by the Hamilton Kerr Institute in Cambridge. [5] Using sturgeon glue, applied with tiny dabs of cotton buds, inch by inch the layers of grime were removed to reveal rich gold and glowing autumnal palette of translucent reds, purples and greens which the original artist used.

Hamilton Kerr Institute

The Hamilton Kerr Institute is a branch of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridgeshire, England, dedicated to the study and conservation of easel paintings. It is also part of the University of Cambridge.

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Dossal ornamental cloth or panel hung behind an altar

A Dossal, from French dos (back), is one of a number of terms for something rising from the back of a church altar. In modern usage it is generally restricted to, firstly, a cloth hanging or, secondly, a board, often carved or containing a painting, rising vertically from the back of the altar, to which it is attached. Retable and reredos are alternative terms for solid structures, as is altarpiece, all of them rather more commonly used today.

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Thornham Magna village in United Kingdom

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St Marys Church, Thornham Parva Church in Suffolk, England

St Mary's Church is a medieval church in Thornham Parva, Suffolk, England. Much of the fabric dates from the 12th century, and it is a Grade I listed building. Originally the church served not only Thornham Parva but the neighbouring village of Thornham Magna, which is now a separate parish.

Thornham Parva Retable

The Thornham Parva Retable is a medieval altarpiece, now in Thornham Parva, Suffolk, England. The retable is thought to have been created in the 1330s for a Dominican Priory. At 15 feet (4.6 m) long, it is the largest surviving altarpiece from the English Middle Ages.


  1. 1 2 Estimates of Total Population of Areas in Suffolk Archived 2008-12-19 at the Wayback Machine Suffolk County Council
  2. Historic England, "Church of St Mary, Thornham Parva (1285113)", National Heritage List for England , retrieved 4 November 2017
  3. "SPENCE, Sir Basil (1907-1976)". English Heritage. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  4. The Hamilton Kerr Institute in Cambridge has restored a 15-ft long medieval altarpiece, History Today , 2003.
  5. "Medieval altarpiece is restored". BBC News. 20 February 2003. Retrieved 11 January 2017.